After an embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the struggling Lakers slipped to the 10th seed in the Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean their season is over. LA is still one game ahead of the 11th-seeded San Antonio Spurs for the final spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament. So, if the team can keep its head above water, it still has a chance to make the playoffs.
But James’ former teammate Kendrick Perkins thinks it’s time for the Lakers to shut him down. He believes it’s time to put an end to The King’s epic season.
The Lakers fell to the 10th seed after their recent loss to the Pelicans
The Lakers were already in a bad spot before the All-Star break, but their positioning has somehow gotten even worse.
LA is 4-12 since the break and has dropped to 31-43 on the season. Its recent loss to the Pelicans, in which New Orleans rallied from a 23-point deficit and outscored Los Angeles 67-39 in the second half, dropped it to the 10th spot in the Western Conference.
Teams between the No. 7 and 10 seeds in each respective conference compete in the NBA Play-In Tournament. So, any more negative movement for the Lakers could result in them missing the play-in tourney altogether. They are just one game ahead of the Spurs for 10th place in the West.
However, despite LA’s abysmal season, LeBron James is having one of the best years of his career. He’s leading the NBA with 30.1 points per game and is shooting 52.3% from the field. The 37-year-old, though, hurt his ankle against the Pelicans and has already been dealing with a knee injury this season. So, his former teammate Kendrick Perkins thinks it’s time for the Lakers to shut him down.
Kendrick Perkins calls for the Lakers to shut LeBron James down
Kendrick Perkins is a major LeBron James supporter. He played with The King on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15 and 2017-18. But he thinks the Lakers need to give up on trying to win a championship with James this season.
“If I’m the front office of the Lakers, if I’m Frank Vogel, I’m shutting down LeBron James,” Perkins said on the March 28 episode of This Just In. “Right now at this point in time, you’re wasting this man, and we already know how many miles he has on his body. Why continue to play him to get into the play-in tournament to actually lose in the first round. The tweak of the ankle could be something else, and now all of sudden, you’re jeopardizing the start of your season for next year.”
Perkins makes a great point, but he’s wrong.
The Lakers need to do anything they can to make the NBA Play-In Tournament.
It would be absurd for LA to shut LeBron James down
OK, Kendrick Perkins’ comments made sense. Why waste LeBron James’ stellar play if you’re either going to miss the play-in tournament or just lose in the first round?
But is it actually wasting it if you have a chance to go on a run?
As constructed, the Lakers wouldn’t beat anyone in the playoffs. However, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that Anthony Davis could return from his foot injury in early April.
Yes, the team has still struggled with Davis on the floor. It is 17-20 in games he has played. A healthy AD, though, is still one of the NBA’s best players. He and LeBron showed how special they can be together during their 2020 title run, and they were ahead of the Phoenix Suns when the teams met in the 2021 playoffs before Davis went down with an injury.
The Lakers won’t be favorites no matter who they play, but Davis’ potential return would give them a chance against anyone.
LA shouldn’t even consider shutting LeBron James down for that reason alone.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference